I saw a kid on the street today. Rollerbag in hand, dirty clothes, hair brushed with fingers. Lips cracked from thirst. He asked me for a lighter. I don’t smoke anymore, so I said so. He smiled ma said thanks, and turner to walk away.
And then he stopped, turned around, and said, “I’m hungry. I will do anything for a hamburger. Anything you want.”
I was taken aback…it was forward, yes. But I wondered what he meant. So I asked something horrible.
“Are you a fag?” He shook his head in response. And I continued: “You’lll go to a hotel, shower, and let me do whatever I want to you for dinner?”
He looked down and kinda half turned away. “Can I sleep there?” He asked. Sure, why not!?
“That’s more than a burger, sir.” How much? A couple hundred bucks.
I was halfway screwing with this kid at this point, so I pushed it further: “Are you hung?”
And right there, on fifth street, he opened his pant and showed me what he had.
And that’s when it stopped being funny for me. That’s when it stopped being a game.
20 years ago, I was the handsome-if slightly sorry kid on the streets in San Diego. There the nights spent sleeping in Balboa park; the hanging out around the gay bars to find an older man who would put me up for the night.
The shame of being brutally penetrated, anally, just secure a meal, a shower, and a place to sleep. And I never cried, I never hated myself. I just did what I had to do.
But tonight, I felt shame. I didn’t get the kid a room, didn’t touch him. I did buy him dinner.
What made me feel shame was the utter depravity of older men who look at a younger man in such circumstances, and exploit the situation because it turns them on to brutalize, use, and cast aside a human being who (who knows?) might one day amount to someone.
I realized in that moment that all of those men could have made s choice: to involve themselves just a bit and help me figure out how to get up ok my feet. Shit, help me get a job.
But they didn’t want that. They wanted a piece of trash to could force face-first into a pillow and hurt, because they enjoyed it.
I was a piece of trash to them, disposable. Not even human.
I wish I could help that kid. I really do. Bit the damage is there, despair dripping of his shoulders.
Oh father, where are you that you let your son, your child give away the only thing that has value? (His body and soul.)
That was me 20 years ago. And I only just recently stopped believing I was worthless.
That was me 20 years ago. And seeing it from the other side brings the anxiety, the despair, the profound sense of isolation back in a flit of a moment.
I’m sorry guy. I got you dinner. I’ll pray for you. But I can’t save you. I wish I could.